International Voices Against the War

Revolutionary Worker #1191, March 16, 2003, posted at

The RW received the following from the A World to Win News Service.

"Tip Of The Iceberg" Antiwar Movement Growing in Egypt Despite Emergency Rule

3 March 2003. A World to Win News Service . The rhythmic chant "We are all... Iraqis" alternated with "We are all... Palestinians", as 100,000 people poured into a Cairo sports arena on 27 February. Police prevented an estimated 40,000 more from entering the filled-to- capacity stadium. Demonstrators burned an effigy of Ariel Sharon dressed as the vampire Dracula. Posters and banners spanning the bleachers denounced the U.S. for interfering in Iraq and attacking the Iraqi people. One addressed to the U.S. people read, "Americans--Bush will fill your tanks with the blood of Iraq's children."

Despite the repressive conditions of emergency rule, the anti-war movement is growing in the Arab world's most populous country, which is also one of its poorest.

Egypt is caught between "Iraq and a hard place," as an article in the Cairo Times put it. One of Washington's most loyal client states, Egypt is sitting on a powder keg. Both the Egyptian rulers and the U.S. are fully aware of this. The Mubarak regime has officially opposed intervention in Iraq, warning that it would provoke chaos and rebellion throughout the Arab world, including in Egypt. At the same time it has tried to stifle any organized opposition to the war, outlawing street demonstrations and using special powers to arrest and detain leaders and intellectuals both preventively and after demonstrations.

It is no accident that the regime decided to permit a public protest for the people to let out steam just two days before a special session of the Arab League in Sharm-el Sheik, Egypt. One of the reasons Egyptian President Mubarak decided to try to channel mass sentiments in this manner was to strengthen his own standing and position in that meeting.

The decision was also a sign of the Egyptian state's fear of the masses it represses daily. Three days prior to the rally, the state pre-emptively renewed emergency rule for another three years, which had not been slated for a vote until May 2003. Since the beginning of the second Intifada, tensions have mounted in Egypt, as has the movement to support Palestine, which for decades has represented an open wound in the Arab world. Intellectuals describe the people's intense hatred of the U.S. for its support of Israel and for its hypocrisy towards the Zionists' continual violation of UN resolutions and their wanton murder of Palestinians.

Despite constant intimidation by the regime, Egyptians have found ways and places to protest. The anti-war movement is developing throughout the country in both strength and organization. It has been built partly on already existing (illegal under emergency rule) informal associations in solidarity with Palestinians as well as human rights groups and anti-globalization committees. Ad hoc groups against U.S. aggression in Iraq have arisen and are trying to link up with the growing anti-war network worldwide.

The regime has blocked all attempts to demonstrate in the streets. Security troops are stationed around possible protest spots. Friday prayer sessions at Cairo's largest mosques regularly turn into large protests, which police cannot stop but surround with a heavily armed presence. Mostly the government has adopted a policy of trying to confine protests to campuses and mosques. People are never allowed to march in the streets.

On 22 February, 1,500 students and faculty demonstrated against the war at Cairo University. They called on the Egyptian government to refuse access to the Suez Canal to U.S. warships and to expel the American, British and Israeli ambassadors from Egypt. Organizers noted the presence of a large number of teaching staff from the American University in Cairo, as well as other foreign nationals. Joining the others at Cairo University was a contingent of 200 secondary school students who had been demonstrating for the third day, evading the police who were chasing them. "We are ready to be martyrs for Iraq and Palestine," one teenager said. Several thousand students burned U.S. and Israeli flags and an effigy of George Bush on the same day in a protest at Helwan University. Nearly 3,000 students demonstrated at Al Azhar University on 18 February, along with 2,000 others at the Suez Canal University in the north-eastern city of Ismailiya. The next day these were followed by protests of 5,000 at Alexandria University calling on the Iraqis to resist and 2,500 at Ain Shams University in Cairo, according to the Cairo Times .

On 20 December, 400 protesters targeted the Qatari embassy for its decision to let the U.S. use its bases to attack Iraq, chanting "Qatar, what's your price?" A demonstration of women took place outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo on 17 January, followed by another on 20 January in which several hundred people, flanked by a mass of riot police, chanted anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans.

"Numbers are not the measure, they're the tip of the iceberg," an Arab political science professor stated. "We are the majority unable to express itself, but you pay a price when you come out." He was referring to numerous arrests of leaders and potential demonstration organizers over the past several months, as well as threats against activists' family members. Reports of beatings and torture in custody have prompted human rights organizations to launch an international appeal on behalf of 15 activists arrested after a demonstration in front of the Egyptian parliament 18 January. Four of them have been released, but together with arrests since then, 14 remain in detention, according to

A journalist who recently authored a book entitled Iraq: A new war for hegemony and oil was arrested by the Egyptian State Security Intelligence (SSI) one week after he participated in an anti- war protest at the Cairo International Book Fair 31 January. Beaten and held in solitary confinement, he was released 10 days later only after a campaign mounted by local and international journalists. The director of Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine's production company suffered a similar SSI arrest. Under emergency law, people can be detained for one month without charges.

Frustration is building on many fronts here. Anger at the American bullying of Iraq is compounded by an intense hatred of Israel, along with increasing rage at the lack of democratic freedoms in Egypt itself. Destruction and bloodshed in Iraq will set off large and violent protests, Egyptian intellectuals predict. The world has witnessed persistent and at times massive eruptions of anti-war protests in other Arab countries like Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco and Palestine. While along with their counterparts at the Arab League summit on March 1 the Egyptian rulers agreed to "categorically reject war," they have a problem. They are caught between their dependence on the U.S. and their fear of a major upsurge at home should the U.S. attack Iraq.

New Round of Protests in the Middle East and the World

3 March 2003. A World to Win News Service . On 1 March, 300,000 people demonstrated against the U.S. in Yemen. Students set off to march to the U.S. Embassy, chanting "Death to America" before they were turned back by police.

In the Gulf state of Bahrain, on 28 February 3,000 people took part in a demonstration where U.S. flags were brazenly burned.

Although Tunisian president Ben Ali has also called for a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis, his regime has banned anti-war demonstrations in Tunis for "security reasons." On 16 February, several hundred people protested against U.S. aggression and in solidarity with the Iraqi people in the center of Sfax in central Tunisia; police beat and severely injured several demonstrators.

On 2 March, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the streets of Casablanca, Morocco, chanted "We are all Iraqis" and denounced the inaction of the Arab state leaders.

In Ankara, Turkey, on 1 March, 50-100,000 angry protesters chanted, "We don't want to be American puppets" in front of the Turkish parliament as it met to consider the U.S. demand that its troops be allowed to attack Iraq from Turkey. Many members of Parliament didn't dare vote at all, so the motion failed to pass, for now at least.

Karachi, Pakistan, saw its largest antiwar demonstration to date--100,000 according to police, several million according to organizers, who are planning another march soon.

Three protest marches took place one after another in different cities of India. News services reported that 10,000 marched in the southern city of Hyderabad.

Demonstrations were also held in many cities in the developed world, including in front of a memorial to the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. In Britain, over 5,000 have signed a public statement declaring that they will support activities that defy the law in the event of war, and student groups at dozens of universities, colleges and high schools have set in place plans for building takeovers and other militant actions. In Italy, antiwar forces using cell phones and Web sites have organized to alert the people when they spot secret train movements of U.S. war equipment crossing the peninsula on the way to ships bound for the Middle East. Contingents of Italian police now accompany the convoys and sweep down the train tracks ahead of them trying to remove protesters who in turn race to regroup ahead of them. Trains have been held up in several different ways, and the shipments process is becoming more complicated day by day. Protesters in Holland have also focused on military transport trains and Dutch military facilities used by the U.S. In the U.S., secondary school and college students were set to stage walkouts against the war on 5 March.

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